Different Headshot Styles

July 31, 2018

Prior to writing this article about different headshot styles, I researched what other photographers wrote regarding this subject matter and found most articles written by novice photographers who were either inventing responses or by bloggers who don’t photograph headshots for a living.

There are numerous styles and purposes for having a professional headshot, to simplify matters I have decided to write about the three most popular headshot styles.

The main purpose of a headshot is to have a professional profile image in the “about us” page, LinkedIn or any social media or association with one’s professional vocation. Another purpose is Actor’s auditioning, student surgeon’s seeking residency and people wanting employment or career change.

Regardless of the purpose for your headshot the following are the main styles; cinematic, studio Hollywood lighting, studio Rembrandt lighting.

Cinematic Style

The cinematic headshot is a style that has been growing in popularity. The person is separated from the background with a specialized lens that makes the background out of focus bringing greater attention to the person.

The advantage of the cinematic look is that the background is beautiful and the disadvantage is that it has to be taken outside or on a premise that has lots of distance or an outdoor view. Another disadvantage is consistency, results vary depending on the weather and time photographed. But when it works its beautiful.

Studio Headshots

Hollywood lighting or Rembrandt Style

Hollywood Lighting

This is the most popular style of headshot and lighting. A basic backdrop, usually black, white or grey. Its all about the subject and his or her expression, no to very little shadows.

The advantage of studio lighting is that it can be photographed in a comfortable premise where the photographer will spend time with the subject and it’s consistent. The disadvantage is that the background is not interesting, its all about the subject.

Rembrandt Studio Lighting

Rembrandt lighting was the most popular style and one of my favorites, not as popular as of late. Rembrandt the artist was a Dutch painter from July 15, 1606, to October 4, 1669 – considered the greatest visual artist in the history of art and most importantly he brought definition to his portraits through shadows.

A Rembrandt studio portrait photograph will have deep shadow’s and lots of expressions, with a dark or black backdrop. The advantages and disadvantages are obvious ones will either love or hate this style or may just not be for you. I highly recommend this style for an actor wanting to be discovered with less pronounced shadow’s.


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